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Bedding Tiestalls for Cow Comfort

Featured at last fall’s Dairy Cattle Welfare Symposium in Guelph, Ontario, a study was conducted in Canada to determine the impact that the stall base and bedding have on cow comfort, likelihood of injury, and average herd lying time on dairy farms. The researchers in the study visited 100 tiestall herds, 60 from Quebec and 40 from Ontario. On the farms, the most common bases used were rubber mats and mattresses while the most common bedding used was either straw or a sawdust/straw mix. See pie charts below for the base and bedding type breakdown within the 100 tiestall herds studied:

Researchers also noted the amount of bedding used and found that 50% of the herds used more than 2 centimeters of bedding while the other half used less than 2 centimeters.

Study Results

  1. The herd lying time averaged 12.4 hours per day for all 100 herds. 56% of the cows had hock injuries and 43% had knee injuries.
  2. Farms using mattresses had an increased average herd lying time of 96 minutes per day than farms using rubber mats. 
  3. The farms using mattresses had 13% fewer cows with hock injuries and 20% fewer with knee injuries than farms using rubber mats.
  4. Farms using 2 centimeters or more of bedding on mattresses had an increased average herd lying time of 72 minutes per day than farms using less than 2 centimeters on rubber mats. 
  5. Farms using 2 centimeters or more of bedding on mattresses had 24% fewer hock injuries and 25% fewer knee injuries than farms using less than 2 centimeters on rubber mats.

Conclusions
Although there is still much more research to be done on determining the best options for cow stall base and bedding materials, researchers identified several factors that can make a difference with cow comfort. First, stall bases made from cushion-like materials are the most comfortable. However, bases should not be too soft (can deteriorate quickly) or too hard (can be uncomfortable and slippery). Second, bedding is important for cushioning, absorbing moisture, and reducing friction between a cow and the base. Bases should be kept clean and bedding should be replaced when it becomes soiled or wet.

Source: Harold K. House, “Comfort and Stability”MilkProducer, March 2013: 44, 46.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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